Omega-3s aren’t just beneficial for your brain. In addition to supporting important cognitive functions and reducing inflammation (among other positive effects), some of these fatty acids can also help fight one of the deadliest diseases on the market.
A new study recently published in the journal Cell Metabolism finds that one of the three most important omega-3 fatty acids called docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) can kill cancer cells. Yvan Larondelle, Ph.D., who co-supervised the research, stated in an interview with Eat This, Not That! that cancer cells become addicted to eating DHA and other highly unsaturated fatty acids (HUFA). This accumulation of fatty acids can kill tumor cells almost like poison.
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“The good news is that DHA and the other HUFAs are not toxic to the other cells,” Larondelle said. Basically, these fatty acids attack cancer cells, but they leave healthy cells intact. Aside from nutritional supplements, DHA is found in fish, seaweed, and seaweed.
If you want to go into more detail, tumor cells can store some DHA in themselves without being harmed. However, when the body tries to digest too much fatty acid, it leads to a process called peroxidation, which makes it toxic to tumors. More specifically, it leads to a type of cell death called ferroptosis. Does this mean that dietary supplements containing fatty acids cure cancer? No, say the experts, but they can help.
“Over-the-counter DHA pills do not cure cancer, but our work shows that DHA may be of interest as a supplement to cancer treatment,” said co-supervisor Olivier Feron, Ph.D. In other words, DHA supplements could provide additional support in preventing or treating cancer. Of course, it’s always a good idea to make sure your doctor says it is safe to take supplements, especially if you are taking other medications.
“More research is needed, but in the meantime, people shouldn’t hesitate to consume a little more DHA from naturally rich but safe foods or from well-controlled dietary supplements,” adds Larondelle.
While the first omega-3-rich food that probably comes to mind is salmon, Feron cautions against eating too much fish. “[They] be contaminated with heavy metals, “he adds.
Now read this article on the side effects of eating farmed salmon to get a feel for how to avoid these harmful heavy metals. Additionally, for other food options, check out these 26 best omega-3 foods to help fight inflammation and support heart health.